The clinical course of chronic pigeon breeder's lung (CPBL) is unknown, especially in comparison with usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP). We studied a cohort of 125 consecutive patients with interstitial lung diseases, including 78 patients with CPBL (74 biopsied) and 47 patients with UIP in the lung biopsy. Patients with UIP were divided into 17 without bird exposure (UIP) and 30 with bird exposure (UIP + BE). All patients were treated with corticosteroids and followed for 33 +/- 23 months. The best predictors of mortality (Cox proportional hazards model) were age > 44 yr, with a relative risk (RR) of 2.5 and 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.4 to 4.7, masculine gender (RR 4.0, CI 2.1 to 7.6), x-ray honeycombing (RR 7.0, CI 3.8 to 12.7), and severity of fibrosis in the lung biopsy (RR 4.8, CI 2.3 to 9.7). Survival in CPBL 5 yr after diagnosis was 0.71 (SEM 0.08) and in UIP was 0.23 (SEM 0.08), with no statistical difference between UIP + BE and UIP. After adjusting for severity of fibrosis and honeycombing, however, the correlation of diagnosis with survival disappeared. In conclusion, mortality in CPBL is considerable, but lower than in UIP. Lung fibrosis and honeycombing seem to be a final common pathway for the ILD. Adjusting for them, the effect of diagnosis in survival is not significant.